Stories from GVSHP’s Historic Image Archive- “Is That My Mother?”

Since its online release in August, 2017, GVSHP’s Historic Image Archive has been the source of several amazing stories. The recently released Carole Teller’s Changing New York Collection particularly so, perhaps because these images from the 1960s to 1990s cover relatively recent history, and thus many people connected to people and places in the images are still around.  For instance, a man emailed us that this picture is the only existing photo of his grandfather.  There is also the sad story of Lincoln Swados, brother of the late Elizabeth Swados.

Now here comes another amazing story connected to an image in our archive that recently came our way. And like many of the others, it involves family, struggle, and a very different time in New York City’s history

Alice Owen, Director of Wholesale at Mud Coffee, came across this photo at right in our image archive of 307 East 9th Street before it was Mud Coffee.  Intrigued by seeing one to which she had this personal connection, she started looking through all of the images in our archive to see what else she might find.  Much to her surprise, one that contained her mom popped up!

307 East 9th Street Ca. 1980s, the future home of Mud Coffee

In the early 1980s, Alice’s mom, Margaret Owen, and her family friend, Lynn Fliegel, made handmade baby clothes out of their lofts on Canal Street. Every weekend morning Margaret (circled in the photo above) and Lynn would go out and sell the clothes they had made that week. Now home to a Badichi Custom Belts store, the northeast corner of West Broadway and Broome Streets was a little less chic in the early 1980s when Carole Teller took this photo of crowds milling about in a still semi-deserted SoHo, with this woman perched on the cast-iron storefront steps selling clothing.

That corner was Margaret’s regular spot for business back in the 80s, and according to Alice she was able to support a family of four through the sales of her hand-painted baby clothes. They rented the outside window corner of a building which at the time was a pepper factory. Many SoHo old-timers fondly recall the smell of pepper drifting throughout the neighborhood, which was common until the factory closed in the early 1980s.

Margaret sold clothes in that location for years, including while pregnant with Alice. After she was born, Alice would sit in her baby carrier modeling the clothes.

After leaving the SoHo corner spot, Margaret opened a children’s clothing store in TriBeCa called Just Kidding. Margaret now lives in upstate New York. Almost 40 years later she is still making hand-printed clothes, although she is now focusing on adult lines. She sells them out of her gallery, The Arts Upstairs, in Phoenicia, NY, as well as at other upstate markets around the area.

Alice purchased an image of the photo for her mom, as all the images on our archive are available for purchase with proceeds benefitting GVSHP.  Explore all the images on our archive here or by map here.

The archive is filled with other fascinating stories — explore a family’s view of the 1962 dismantling of the Highline, a the interior of a Gilded Age rowhouse, how Veselka turned into a world-famous restaurant, or the historic 1982 Sheridan Square archeological dig.  If you have any stories or old photographs of our neighborhoods that you wish to share, email Sam Moskowitz.

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Sam Moskowitz